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AfL needs reassessment

I was interested to hear Dylan Wiliam's thoughts on the distortions of AfL in classrooms ("Think you've implemented Assessment for Learning?", 20 July). A couple of points emerged from our school-based research.

First, the "confusion" over the definition of "assessment" is partly caused by the absence of its use in conjunction with an understanding of "formative". Second, the travelling salesperson who sells workshops to teachers on AfL has failed to emphasise "learning" as an activity that requires teachers to understand the complexity of that learning process and plan accordingly. The reduction of the pedagogical training aspect of initial teacher training in England to make room for fast-track solutions has validated this minimum-level competency process.

In 2009-10, our team at the Centre for Formative Assessment Studies, University of Manchester, studied AfL strategies across a national sample of primaries. The resultant range of definitions published in the report should have been enough to provoke government attention. It was not newsworthy enough to merit action, sadly.

Bill Boyle, School of Education, University of Manchester.

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